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The future of travel will be conversational


ANDREW CANNINGTON, GM, APAC, LivePerson, discusses why agents need to evolve to keep pace with the modern traveller.

Advances in technology are fundamentally reshaping the world as we know it -and the travel industry is no different. 

 

 

With increasing competition from digital platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com, travel agents need to evolve to meet the needs of the modern traveller.

 

Underlying the new wave of digital innovations is the technology that allows travel agents to create personalised, seamless experiences for their customers, otherwise knownas conversational commerce.

 

Our research found two-thirds of consumers globally would like the ability to message directly withbrands. What’s more, 49% reported a higher likelihood of spending more with a brand that offers messaging as a contact option.

 

Conversational commerce enables travel agents to sell tickets and help travellers make reservations directly in the messaging channels they use every day with friends and family, such as Apple’s Messages app, Messenger, SMS and WhatsApp. 

 

On one side, consumers get control of the conversation with either virtual or human agents -or a mix of both -, leading to a better customer experience.

 

 

On the other, travel agents can increase direct-to-consumer touch points. This can be achieved at scale through the integration of AI and bots to achieve increase in conversions, decrease in customer care costs andpeak in customer satisfaction.

 

One good example of a brand capitalising on conversational commerce in the travel industry is Spirit Airlines. Spirit Airlines recently introduced a new texting and messaging solution for its customers on WhatsApp, opening a new direct line of communication between their English and Spanish-speaking guest relations and reservations teams and their customers, who already use WhatsApp daily.

 

As a result, Spirit Airlines can better connect with guests, both domestically and abroad, through messaging. 

 

From travel updates to adding a bag to a reservation, guests can easily message with both an AI-powered assistant or human agent to ask questions, add products or get immediate help without the wait, in the messaging channels they prefer. 

 

Unlike traditional live chat, messaging allows Spirit’s customers to return to existing conversations, regardless of where they left off. This leaves customers free to focus on their journey they are having instead of worrying about the details.

 

 

Since the earliest days ofthe web, the travel industry has topped the list of the fastest growing e-commerce markets, much to the dismay of some. 

 

Consumers and business travellers alike are hooked on the utter convenience and cost advantages of researching travel options and booking online. But the ease with which travellers can find the lowest possible fare or rate has forced commoditisation of the industry and cut deeply into industry profits.

 

Ultimately, the travel agents and brands that win in the long-term will be those that prioritise and compete on customer experience, not price. At the end of the day, good customer experience drills down to how consumers feel when they interact with a brand. 

 

In 2020 and beyond, consumers will demand that travel brands and agents meet them where they are, in already reliant mobile channels that give them control of the experience and bring them joy -all of which is made possible by conversational commerce.

 

 

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Written by: ANDREW CANNINGTON for Traveltalk
Published: 5 February 2020

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